Still Life (2006, Jia Zhang-Ke)

I can’t remember according to who was this the greatest film of 2006 (or ’07 or ’08, depending when they saw it) but I was predictably underwhelmed. Having seen The World and Unknown Pleasures, I kept my whelm-expectations low, so I was only mildly underwhelmed, but still…

A nice, straightforward story… woman is searching for her husband who went missing two years ago to obtain a divorce. We’re on the Yangtze (flood levels are lower than in the documentary since this one was shot sooner) but this movie has less of a tourist feel, sticks with the characters instead of reveling in landscapes. Don’t know which approach I preferred.

Quiet movie, medium-paced with lots of breathing room. Unexceptionally serious-artfilmesque for long stretches. But then there’s the aliens. One scene with a darting UFO in the sky, one awesome bit where a statue becomes a rocket and blasts off, and the final shot: the woman leaving town, looking back at a man walking a tightrope between two buildings unexplained. I am all for more weirdness in movies, but the weirdness here seemed to be wedged in where it didn’t belong.

According to IMDB, all the actors in this were in all the director’s other films (two of which I’ve seen, but I barely remember the films let alone the actors).

I hope I figure out what everyone is on about, watch this again sometime with a new appreciation for its rich subtexts and symbolism and emotional impact, and come back to revise this post, embarrassed that I once called such a masterpiece underwhelming and unexceptional. I surely enjoyed it more than The World (and 4-5 times more than Unknown Pleasures) so I’m getting closer anyway.

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